The Old Testament readings from the Book of Exodus have been quite fruitful these last three weeks. This week’s reading is no exception. The topic is the anxiety which the Israelites feel in the midst of their wanderings through the desert after a dramatic escape from Egypt. Moses and Aaron are feeling the full weight of the individual and familial angst. The task of leadership becomes difficult as hitherto forbidden questions begin to be asked: Was the life we led as slaves back in Egypt really that bad? Was there not bread back home - occasionally even meat in the pot? We might die out here in the desert. It could all go so wrong.
We might recognize an undercurrent of anxiety in our community here in Clermont-Ferrand. Topic headings might well include:
- The distance from family members - both young and old - who must face life transitions far away and without us.
- The loss, in some cases, not only of an income but frequently the vocational world of one spouse who must retool and mourn the loss or suspension of one of the things upon which his or her self-worth was based.
- Places which were strange, foreign or incomprehensible were once seen on television or in National Geographic. Now they are all around us. Our children’s education is in a different mode, perhaps even in a different language. We don’t understand how the bureaucracy works or even, for that matter, how the shops are set out. How are we going to find what we want to eat?
And so there are a few (slightly stretched) analogies between the way some of our lives feel and those of the people of Israel in the desert. What the heck are we doing here, anyway? Do we know if it’s even going to work out?
In Sunday's passage from Exodus the challenge is addressed by Moses and Aaron. Recourse is made to faith in what God promises: The people will eat both bread and meat because God can provide even in out-of-the-way places. The second point is a challenge: The people will need to change their diet. Quails and Manna is the plat du jour.
God is faithful. We will have enough. God provides, but the people must learn to delight in the food which he gives.